The Princeton University Master Plan involves planning work throughout the entire 725-acre campus and its surrounding 500-acre properties; it includes building renovations, new building construction, as well as landscape and urban space design. Within the contextually sensitive historic campus, available building sites were analyzed and interventions were carefully introduced in order to complement the existing environment.
The 1756 northern campus of Princeton University is classically and symmetrically organized and consists of a tree-filled courtyard edged by a wall of campus buildings. This strong axial arrangement is established by the Fitzrandolph Gate on Nassau Street and the bell tower of Nassau Hall, the campus's largest building. Over the decades as the campus expanded to the south, the axis of the original campus has virtually disappeared. The master plan proposes to redefine and clarify the historic axis by marking its termination with a new monument consisting of a campus gate, amphitheater, and plaza. Intended to terminate and therefore complete the original axis of the old campus, this monument serves as an orientation device for the south campus, a space overlooking the expanding Princeton campus.
The planning proposal for the rapidly developing peripheral edges of campus and the surrounding properties strives to define a coherent order and a strong spatial hierarchy which extends and connects to the historic campus. On the peripheral sites, the master plan reinforces the edge conditions and articulates the boundaries between the University and the adjacent township. Existing parking lots, located pre-dominantly in these areas, were relocated and condensed, creating new sites for future academic buildings, athletic facilities, and residential dormitories.
The master plan regulating the construction of the future Princeton Fields attempts to put an end to the disorganized building activity that characterizes the southern-most edge of campus, while preserving the current location of the recreational athletic fields. An elliptical figure is thus emphatically traced, marked by buildings to the north and a wooded landscape on the southern lake side. The ellipse proper is a twenty foot wide continuous stone walk, edged with benches and parapets as well as a necklace of Princeton lamp posts.
The buildings will not conform to a traditional crescent; rather they are proposed as a series of buildings and gates designed by different architects to be built over the next ten to fifteen years within very precise guidelines. These new dormitories and science buildings will maintain the fragmentary nature of typical Princeton buildings facing towards the old campus while presenting a more homogeneous and contemporary image towards the playing fields. The southern landscaped edge of the ellipse will consist of a double curbed allée of trees, reaching the height of the buildings across the fields. The minimal demarcation of the sports fields will stress the informal aspects of the activities and the continuity of the grass plane.